Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ten reasons Linux and BSD are vastly superior to Windows - Part I


I know that some Microsoft fanboys are probably hitting the Send button on their flames as they read the title, but you can't ignore the truth. Linux and BSD are vastly superior to Windows in every way. Don't believe me? Read on, my friend. Read on and realize the folly of your MS ways.

The top ten list
#10 - Total cost of ownership ranges very low to nothing for Linux.
For that matter, ownership isn't really a term you can apply to your Windows box. Microsoft allows you to use their software, for a hefty fee, and you are limited as to how you can use your software and what machines you can install it on. Want to install a new CPU in your Windows box? Sorry, you'll have to "activate" your copy of Windows again. Want to actually be productive with Windows right out of the box? Sorry, it doesn't come with any software, unless you count Notepad and Solitaire. But that's another point entirely...

You can freely download Linux from thousands of different websites. If you don't have a fast internet connection, you can also purchase it for a very, very small fee - usually not much more than the cost of the CD's themselves plus shipping. Even if you purchase a full retail version of a major Linux distro, say Novell's Suse or Red Hat Enterprise Linux Workstation, you're still far short of the cost of Windows plus the cost of all the software you'll still have to purchase to bring Windows up to the basic usability level as your average Linux distribution.

Bottom line: If you are only considering cost - Linux and BSD will always be cheaper than Windows in every scenario. Game over. Windows cannot compete in cost.

#9 - Linux and BSD distributions give you more complete, usable operating environments out of the box.
Take this test: Download and install any Linux distribution and take a look at all of the applications that come with your new system. Office apps, Web browsers, Chat clients, Programming tools, Network tools, Server software, Games, Administration tools. Now, do a fresh install of any version of Windows and take a look at what you get. Nothing. (maybe some server software, if you installed a "server" version of Windows) But, in order for a Windows system to have the same level of productivity as a Linux system, you must install many, many third-party applications after the install.

Bottom line: If you need to be productive quickly, Linux and BSD distributions are exponentially more capable out of the box. Sorry Windows, can't compete here either.

#8 - Viruses and Spyware are basically nonexistant for Linux and BSD.
There are a handful of Linux viruses, I know, but the difference is, the security paradigm for Linux and BSD is completely different than Windows. You aren't administrator by default in Linux systems. If you do something malicious in Windows, you could wipe out your whole system. In Linux, you'll just destroy your own user files and your system will keep purring along. But if you're still paranoid about viruses on your Linux box, there are excellent free antivirus packages you can download and use on any distribution (ClamAV is an excellent choice).

Bottom line: If you're worried about viruses and spyware, Windows is very susceptible. Linux and BSD are practically immune to all known viruses and your system will continue to perform while all of your Windows friends are overwhelmed. Buh-bye, Windows.

#7 - Linux and BSD systems are more stable than Windows.
Because of the way Unix-like systems are designed and the underlying concepts behind the way they run, Linux and BSD will always be more stable than Windows. In fact, Microsoft has "borrowed" parts of BSD in the past to improve versions of Windows.

Think about this: There is a reason why BSD and Linux are used in large supercomputer clusters, datacenters, web server farms, graphics rendering farms, and other areas where Windows simply cannot extend or compete in areas of scalability, performance and stability. The bottom line is, if your business has critical data, don't entrust it to Windows.

#6 - Linux and BSD supports more hardware out-of-the-box.
You may not believe me. You may be scoffing right now, but it's true. Try this: Install any Linux distro. How many drivers did you have to install during the install or after? Maybe graphics and that's it. Now install Windows. After you've installed the base OS, you'll have to install your network card drivers, graphics card drivers, sound card drivers, motherboard chipset drivers, printer drivers and maybe more if you have some specialized hardware.

It's not that Linux doesn't use drivers for your hardware, it's the fact that the Linux kernel source package contains Open Source versions of most of the drivers you'll need. The reasons you might have to install drivers after the install are for proprietary/trade secret things like certain wireless cards (Intel) and nVidia/ATI video cards.

Bottom line: Linux-based systems support more hardware by default and will make you more productive out-of-the-box.

#5 - It's easy and fun to develop high-quality software for Linux and BSD.
The de-facto C/C++ compiler for Linux/BSD is gcc and it's free. Several very good IDE's (Integrated Development Environments) that allow you to quickly and easily develop GUI and CLI applications are also free. The Netwide Assembler (NASM) is free. Python, Ruby, Perl, Java, PHP, Fortran, ADA, Pascal, Prolog, Lisp, Eiffel, ML, Tcl/Tk, Forth - over 183 languages with freely available compilers. You can build everything from mission critical embedded applications to large, distributed simulation apps. Sure, you can develop some good software for Windows, but it will cost you. The best Windows compilers are very expensive.

Do you need to understand how the OS works to hook in your application? Check out the kernel source. Need your own device driver? Not a problem. You've got the kernel headers freely available with plenty of documentation. Want to actually learn how a modern, standards compliant, multi-user operating system works? Check the kernel source! Are you seeing a pattern here? Ask Microsoft for a copy of Windows source code for free and see if you get it.

Bottom line: Linux and BSD provide better developer support with a large range of free compilers, IDE's and access to the operating system source code.

Up next...
Next week we will discuss Part II of this article covering points 1-4. I'm sure this will give you and your friends plenty to discuss. Feel free to post your comments in the Open Addict forum area and also here on this article.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Open source consortium wins EC funding

Richard Thurston and Graeme Wearden
October 23, 2006, 17:10 BST

Tell us your opinion
The European Commission is committing millions of euros to a consortium examining the quality of open source code

A European Commission-funded consortium has raised over three million Euros to fund a project testing the quality of open source software.

The consortium is made up from research organisations, consultants and those undertaking open source projects. Known as the Software Quality Observatory for Open Source Software (SQO-OSS), it is half funded by its participants, and half by the European Commission.

Among its goals, the SQO-OSS will benchmark the quality of source code to help to prove its suitability for deployment in businesses. It will also publish a league table rating open source applications according to their perceived quality.

"An industry matures when its products become standardised," said Diomidis Spinellis, project lead, and professor at the University of Athens in Greece.

"Through the objective evaluation of open source projects, SQO-OSS will provide many smaller and less known projects with the visibility and respectability they deserve," Spinellis added.

SQO-OSS is the second open source project to secure significant funding from the European Commission this month, following the extension in capabilities of the Open Source Observatory.

Analysts noted that similar projects already exist, but indicated that the SQO-OSS could still be valuable.

"It's always nice to have something that certifies open source software. However, this has been done before through initiatives like Coverity and it would be nice not to reinvent the wheel," said Laurent Lachal, open source research director at Ovum.

Coverity is an American company that is being funded by the US government to help make open source code as secure as possible.

Lachal believes that SQO-OSS needs to form links with the likes of Coverity, otherwise they are "just spending public money for the sake of public money."

He added that companies are typically more concerned about the quality of open source support, rather than the code itself.

"It would be nice if, apart from evaluating code, they also evaluated support," Lachal suggested.

The consortium consists of UK-based IT services group Sirius IT, KDE and ProSyst from Germany, Sweden's KDAB and the Greek Universities of Athens and Thessaloniki.

Its output will be released under the BSD licence.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Free software's secret weapon: FOOGL

By Glyn Moody on Fri, 2006-08-18 03:03.

It's a long-standing joke in the free software world that this will be the year when we see GNU/Linux make its breakthrough on the desktop - just like last year, and the year before that. What's really funny is that all the key GNU/Linux desktop apps are already being widely deployed, but not in the way that people have long assumed.

The indestructible optimism about GNU/Linux appearing on the desktop seems to be the result of a misguided view that since it grew from insignificance in the server sector to become a serious challenger to Microsoft Windows there, the same is bound to happen to GNU/Linux on the client side.

But there are fundamental differences between the server and desktop markets. Free software has traditionally been written by geeks for geeks: this means that it suits well those whose job is tending a company's servers. By contrast, all the things that non-technical users demand – ease-of-use, an engaging user interface and above all continuity with what they are used to – have typically been absent.

Similarly, although it is difficult enough to impose a new server solution on an unwilling IT department, it is trivially easy compared to trying to get end-users to switch to a new desktop. After all, IT staff are paid to deal with IT problems (including their own), whereas general users just want to get their non-IT jobs done; a completely new IT solution is seen as an unnecessary distraction from their “real” work, to be fiercely resisted.

How, then, can free software overcome this apparently insuperable problem that end-users will be unwilling to try anything that differs substantially from what they were using last week?

The answer lies in an overlooked strength of free software on the desktop: the fact that it is cross-platform. Whereas Windows apps run on, well, Windows, the main open source programs typically run on GNU/Linux, Windows and Apple Mac (and often on other platforms too). What this means in practice is that users can make the transition to a GNU/Linux desktop in several stages. The rise of Web-based applications is another factor that helps to smooth the transition.

The first step – switching from Internet Explorer to Firefox - has been taken by huge numbers of people. The second phase, moving to from Microsoft Office, is currently underway, and is becoming more common thanks to the increasing adoption of the OpenDocument Format standard around the world. As a result, anyone whose main desktop applications are the browser and office suite, and who has become accustomed to using Firefox and on Windows (and to a lesser extent on the Mac), would be able to swap to GNU/Linux, with relatively little trouble, because they would be using the same principal programs as before, with almost identical user interfaces.

This might be called the FOOGL – Firefox/OpenOffice/GNU/Linux - approach. It is why, in some sense, the shift to the GNU/Linux desktop can be said to be already underway, since it is an incremental move that begins by moving to Firefox and, but remaining on Windows. The last step – moving to GNU/Linux – has not happened yet in large numbers, but it could do, once one remaining obstacle is removed.

The problem is that most people depend on three main software categories - browser, office suite and email - not two. Although Thunderbird is a fully cross-platform email client, it lacks a key feature, that of calendaring. This prevents most people from ditching Microsoft Outlook entirely, however appealing that might be from other viewpoints. The Sunbird team has been working on a standalone calendar app for a while, but the more recent Lightning project, a Thunderbird extension that adds calendaring, is probably a better hope because of its integration with the email client.

In addition to Lightning, there is also Chandler, now at version 0.6, which offers email, calendaring, contact management and more, and Evolution. The latter has long been a popular solution for GNU/Linux users, but for some years lacked a Windows version that would allow the kind of cross-platform strategy described above to be implemented. Happily, a Windows port of Evolution now exists. Also worth mentioning is the new generation of free Web-based (and hence cross-platform) calendars like Google Calendar and 30Boxes, which are increasingly popular.

All of these have their virtues and champions. But, in truth, which of them emerges as the preferred free email/calendaring solution for Windows users is largely irrelevant. What is important is that at least one becomes sufficiently mature that it can join the free software line-up of viable cross-platform alternatives to proprietary offerings, and hence boost the power of the FOOGL factor. Until that happens, the subject of migration to GNU/Linux on the desktop is likely to remain something of a joke.

Glyn Moody writes about free software at opendotdotdot.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Open source advocates step up government lobby efforts


GOSLING movement sends out CDs to 308 MPs in awareness campaign
10/23/2006 5:00:00 PM
by Shane Schick

A Canadian open source group focused on the public sector is bypassing this week's GTEC conference in favour of a direct marketing approach to members of parliament.

Click Here!

Getting Open Source Logic Into Government (GOSLING) recently distributed a package containing two CDs with open source software and a backgrounder on Canadian use of the technology to the offices of 308 MPs. The campaign is part of an effort to educate the Harper government on the benefits of what GOSLING members refer to as free/libre open source software, or FLOSS.

“The Government of Canada spends billions each year on custom software development, software licences, and integration of proprietary systems and standards. Governments worldwide have been depending on FLOSS for decades, and the trend continues to increase,” the backgrounder says. “During your work as an MP, we encourage you to ask the public service where they are including free/libre open source approaches in their acquisition, use, production and distribution of software. We hope you might encourage further investigation of its benefits within the Canadian Government.”

Mike Richardson, principal of an Ottawa-based IT consultancy and a GOSLING member, said volunteers will be following up individually with MPs in their area to gauge their familiarity and interest in open source issues. GOSLING was not expecting a deluge of e-mails, he said, or even for MPs to put a strange CD received through the mail into their office computer.

“If they take the CD out of the package and use it as a coaster, we consider that to be a win,” he said. “If one of their staffers hands it to their 16-year-olds and asks, ‘What the hell is this?' that's even better.”

While many public sector IT workers and government officials are attending this week's GTEC conference in Ottawa, Richardson said GOSLING will not be taking part. He said GTEC organizers have approached members in the past about speaking at the event, but rescinded the invitation after GOSLING refused to buy booth space.

“It hasn't been a very good working relationship,” he said. “Maybe they have turnover and their staff don't remember what they did from year to year.”

Although it has been active for several years, GOSLING has primarily been an informal knowledge-sharing group for open source users. Russell McOrmond, a GOSLING member who is also based in Ottawa, said the important thing is not just increasing open source adoption in the public sector.

“My goal is to get parliamentarians aware of it so when they're regulating the software industry, they're aware there are multiple competing business models, and that they're not destroying the industry in order to protect it,” he said.

While GOSLING had found a sympathetic ear in former MP Reg Alcock, McOrmond said the regime change in Ottawa has meant searching among new faces for support. One possibility, he said, is James Ragotte, MP for Edmonton-Leduc who used to act as Industry critic when the Conservative Party was still in opposition.

“Normally you can't tell who the important people are before they become important,” McOrmond said.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The slow but steady march of open-source

Technology executives talk about why they chose it, what it was like to implement and some of the advantages of moving to an open platform.

October 10, 2006 (ITWorldCanada) It may not be taking the world by storm, but open-source still has a growing and determined group of adherents. Technology executives at two Canadian users of the technology, Pioneer Petroleum and Vancouver Community College, talk about why they chose it, what it was like to implement and some of the advantages of moving to an open platform.

Money isn't everything. People love finding good deals, like stumbling across an inexpensive but delightful wine. And then they will buy it again -- not because it's cheap but because it's good.

That's the pattern that's emerging with many open-source implementations. Driven by cost containment pressures, many cash-strapped organizations are turning to open-source applications for relief. But once they've implemented a system component and found it is good, they come back for more.

Pioneer Petroleum in Burlington, Ontario, is one such example. The company is the largest independent gasoline retailer in Ontario, with 150 retail locations, many in remote rural locations. Thanks to rocketing gas prices, Pioneer is feeling the pinch. "It's a strange scenario. We have to buy our product from the companies we compete with," explained Dale Sinstead, director of IT at Pioneer.

To pump up revenue sources, the company recently revamped its business model, retrofitting its locations with general stores, fast food and car wash outlets. But Pioneer now had a mass of new data requirements to manage at each site and collaboration with new vendors and suppliers to contend with. "We needed something we could manage from a centralized location that was robust, so we wouldn't have to worry about the midnight guy playing with the computer," said Sinstead.

Pioneer had already done some toe-dipping into Linux for a few years at the server end, and decided to take the plunge last year and implement Red Hat workstations at the client end, with IBM's Lotus Notes for Linux as the collaboration glue binding the system. "We couldn't possibly put Windows machines out there without having to hire a whack of people to manage them," said Sinstead, who estimates he avoided spending about $89,500 per year, net of licensing fees, in extra support costs.

Better still, the system is so robust that current resources can be painlessly stretched further. "Our administrative costs have gone down because we found we could do more without hiring anyone."

Teething pains

There were some initial hiccups. One thing Sinstead's team overlooked was printer drivers for Linux, but a search of online resources resolved that. Some of Pioneer's suppliers balked, as their online ordering systems were designed to work in Microsoft Windows Explorer. But they were persuaded to make a few changes so e-commerce transactions would work with Firefox browsers.

Some of Pioneer's users balked too, claiming they only knew how to use Windows. But once they were shown that functions were the same, they came around. Sinstead points out there are many Linux desktop distributions that can be made to look and feel like Windows. "They are very good for enterprise environments, as they give you incredible control over what people can and can't do; you can easily affect changes on any user from anywhere on the network."

This is one of the many features that makes security easier to manage on Linux desktops, he says. In the past, users needed but abused access that allowed them to install legitimate updates to their desktops. "People always found ways to install games, toolbars and so on. With Linux, they can't do that. We can lock down their machines."

An unexpected benefit Sinstead is enjoying is cost avoidance of antivirus software. Thus far, no viruses have slinked past Pioneer's firewalls, likely because the vast majority of malware is designed to infect Microsoft systems. "We looked into antivirus software for Linux that could be managed centrally, but we can't justify the spend," he said, adding that he is still considering it.

Security aspects of Linux

Sinstead believes Linux's architecture makes it inherently more secure, stable and manageable relative to Windows, pointing to a fundamental -- and philosophical -- difference between the two. Microsoft's operating system is designed for ease of use by multiple users, he says, so all the features in a component, such as a firewall, are turned on by default. Linux is the opposite; all features are turned off until a user turns them on.

"You can build a very stripped-down Linux system," said Jim Elliott, infrastructure solutions manager and Linux advocate at IBM Canada. "If you use only what you need, you are less likely to be attackable." There is also the "many eyes" aspect, he says, alluding to the open-source community culture where many experts scrutinize Linux's source code and fix bugs before malware writers can exploit them.

VCC does more with less

The ability to do more with less was also the main selling point for Des Dougan, director of IT at Vancouver Community College (VCC). As with many educational institutions, VCC has severe budgetary constraints and a tiny team of IT staff.

The college started its migration to Linux about five years ago, first beginning with an Apache Web server, then implementing an Oracle database on Linux to house a provincial data warehouse when the old Unix platform reached its end of life.

"It would have cost us about four times more to buy a new Unix server for that," said Dougan, adding that VCC plans to move its ERP to Linux as well, when that server needs to be replaced in the future.

VCC recently implemented Novell's Suse Linux to manage automatic provisioning of IDs, directory services and e-mail management. Since a significant percentage of VCC's 25,000 population are working students, the ability to provide reliable e-mail to students that allows them to submit assignments and large files is a key competitive necessity nowadays.

But manually creating e-mail accounts for each student would have been an impossible task for VCC's small IT team. Since VCC was already comfortable with Novell Netware in place, Dougan said it was a natural fit to opt for Suse Linux to tackle automatic provisioning of IDs and e-mail management. With this move, Dougan said the college avoided an estimated $883,800 in extra administrative costs and freed up 15% of his existing IT staff's time to devote to new projects.

The lack of in-house skills is often a stumbling block when considering Linux for many organizations. But putting the time and effort in building up in-house talent is definitely a worthwhile investment, said Dougan. "This is a big thing with us, as it doesn't just give them skills, but it also motivates them," he said. "If a company has the ability to train their people to support Linux, they should go for it. Linux has many advantages -- the stability and interoperability are great."

Going forward, Dougan said his team is doing a lot of work in virtualization, building virtual servers on top of individual blade servers to consolidate VCC's system. "We have twice as many virtual servers as physical servers, and find it quite straightforward to use Suse tools as the basis for building both; there's no difference."

As with security, Linux's build-up architecture is particularly congenial to virtualization. "You only install the pieces you need," said Ross Chevalier, chief technology officer at Novell Canada. "If you're building a server solely for the purposes of virtualization, then you don't need a graphical interface, Web browser and so on." And beyond virtualization, Chevalier points out this increases performance value in general. "You get a longer life cycle out of the hardware you already own and new equipment you get, because you're not adding or running a bunch of gunk you don't need."

VCC is laying the infrastructure to provide distance learning courses online in the near future, and Dougan is eyeing some open-source online course management systems to support this strategic initiative. "Our students want to be trained at their convenience off-site," he said. "And we have also seen a groundswell of demand from faculty who have grown more familiar with technology themselves."

An emerging pattern?

IBM Canada's Elliott said these customer experiences are part of a growing pattern. Companies implement open-source for edge-of-network applications, then move it in gradually to more critical business areas as they gain experience. About 20% of Canadian companies have implemented open-source to some degree, according to IDC.

"People start looking at Linux as a cost avoidance thing, but find other reasons to do it later," he said. "Buying a Linux distribution from vendors is not cheap -- the price on a per year basis is in the same range as a Windows server license. But you're getting over a thousand applications with that investment: open-source databases, Web services and so on."

Pioneer's Sinstead said he was not driven by any anti-Microsoft sentiment in his Linux implementation, and has retained Windows in many areas where it makes sense. And he also pointed out you can pay dearly for open-source software, depending on how it's packaged. "Linux isn't right for everything -- no operating system is," he cautioned. "If you put it in places where it doesn't belong, you will have a bad experience with it."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

CD - Delerium - Nuages Du Monde (Clouds of the World)


I'm a huge Delerium fan and own all their albums. I have sung their praises and turned friends onto their music. Their fifth album for Nettwerk Records, Nuages Du Monde (Clouds of the World) is lush, exotic, cinematic, and features a fine assortment of breathy female vocalists, however, the experience is like listening to sonic wallpaper. Songs meander aimlessly. The compositions are not all that memorable. The whole is not greater than the sum of the parts, unfortunately. Despite several listens, this album hasn't gained any traction with me.

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Delerium have 3 phases in their career. Early on, they were darker, gothic, scary, ghostly, with few if any vocals or pop sensibilities, perfect film soundtrack music. Begining with Semantic Spaces, they began their "chanting monks phase," while composing catchier yet distinctive songs and mixing in plenty of breathy female vocals along with exotic instrumentation. Recently, they have become more of an ambient techno project with songs that have well-recorded pieces but taken as a whole, do not impress and are not terribly memorable or distinctive. There are some exceptions, but overall, this is sonic wallpaper.

01. Angelicus - (featuring Isabel Bayrakdarian)
02. Extollere - (featuring Katharine Blake/Mediaeval Baebes)
03. Way You Want It To Be, The - (featuring Zoe Johnston)
04. Indoctrination - (featuring Kiran Ahluwalia)
05. Self-Saboteur - (featuring Kirsty Thirsk)
06. Tectonic Shift
07. Lumenis - (featuring Isabel Bayrakdarian)
08. Fleeting Instant - (featuring Kirsty Hawkshaw)
09. Sister Sojourn Ghost - (featuring Katharine Blake/Mediaeval Baebes)
10. Lost And Found - (featuring Jael)
11. Apparition

Delerium is an off-shoot of the Vancouver-based industrial group Front Line Assembly, and is the product of the imagination of Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber. While the duo have earned significant accolades for their previous compositions in the Delerium world (not to mention Synaesthesia, Noise Unit, Pro Tech, Intermix, Equinox, and
early on, Skinny Puppy), they may need to take a step back next time and really evaluate the compositions and not get themselves lost in the undeniable ethereal, cinematic ethno-ambient glory of it all. In other words, they might be at the point where they could use the ears of a producer.

Like with so many bands who have been around more than 10 years, Delerium's creative energies appear to be all but spent. I hope they were simply unfocused on this album rather than creatively exhausted.

My rating for Nuages Du Monde is 2/5

Film Review: The Departed

One of the best films that I have seen this year, Martin Scorcese's The Departed treads familiar territory with mobsters, cops and betrayal. It's an adaptation of the Hong Kong film Internal Affairs.

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Jack Nicholson is his usual funny and twisted self as the mobster boss Costello, while Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio put in strong performances as a rising detective (Colin Sullivan) and a deep undercover cop (Billy Costigan.) Alec Baldwin is police chief Ellerby and has some of the funniest dialogue. Damon already proved his credibility as a quality actor to me, but it was nice to see Leo step up to the plate. Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen are given good support roles, but this is clearly the Jack/Matt and Leo show. Watch for the scene where Costello and Costigan are discussing the apparent mole in the organization and Costello begins to impersonate the rodent...the audience will be in stitches. You almost get the feeling that Nicholson was playing himself with his constant foul-mouthed, smart-ass lines.

The mobster boss grooms a young boy to get into the police force to be a mole. The moles (Sullivan) rises quickly through the ranks and has his own special team for investigating crime. Meanwhile, a rookie cop (Costignan) with lots of shady family connections, is given a deep cover assignment, meant to be the police's mole on the inside of the mobster's organization. The two graduated from the academy on the same day but they never knew each other. There are shades of No Way Out, the Kevin Costner thriller, in this film.

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There are plenty of guns, blood and swearing in this tight thriller. Just when you think the gig is up for either mole, the plot twists again. The film didn't end when I thought it would, which means I was glued to the screen to see how the complex but but succint plot would resolve itself. Scorcese has another winner on his hands. I won't be surprised if there's Oscar talk surrounding this film for best director, best screenplay, and best supporting actor for Jack Nicholson. I'm not sure if and how Matt Damon and Leo would be recognized for their performances. Both played key roles but neither was dominant over the role and neither roles screams best actor nomination to me.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Who - October 3, 2006

The Who / Inward Eye
MTS Centre
Winnipeg, Canada
3 October, 2006
audience: 10,000

At show's outset, Pete Townshend joked about how they were back in Winnipeg again and again. There was no joking as the band cranked out hit after hit, stopping to play several songs from the new album due out later this month. Their last show in Winnipeg was on October 18, 1976, almost 30 years ago. Their first show here was on August 22, 1967.

Singer Roger Daltrey appeared to be fit enough to run a marathon, while Townshend seemed a little less agile. He powered through several "windmills" on his guitar, but his scissor jumps were a lot more geriatric in nature. The guitarist also sang several of his parts a bit differently, not even trying to hit some of the notes that are beyond his range. Roger Daltrey was surprisingly strong on his vocals, although at the end of the show, in the final tune, you could tell he was out of gas. Toward the latter part of the show, Townshend appeared to loosen up and had his best guitar soloing.

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I Can't Explain, The Seeker, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Fragments, Who Are You, Behind Blue Eyes, Real Good Looking Boy, Sound Round, Pick Up The Peace, Endless Wire, We Got A Hit, They Made My Dream Come True, Mirror Door, Baba O'Riley, Eminence Front, Man In A Purple Dress, Mike Post Theme, You Better You Bet, My Generation, Won't Get Fooled Again, Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, Sparks, See Me Feel Me, Tea And Theatre.

Townshend atributed the tour to the forthcoming album, having said that otherwise there was no reason to go on the road. Some of the new material met with polite applause and while all of it sounded like The Who, I'm not sure how much of it will become audience favorites.

Local power trio Inward Eye opened the show and were quite beside themselves, opening for one of their biggest influences and playing to a hometown crowd. They sounded better as their set progressed.

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While no longer in their prime, they didn't disappoint me and I intend to relive the experience by getting a dvd of the show. They are recording dvds and cds of all their shows on this tour and my set will be shipped to me by the middle of November.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Wailin' Jennys - September 22, 2006

The Wailin' Jennys
Pantages Theatre
September 22, 2006

The last time the Wailin' Jennys played an album release gig, they had about 310 people at the West End Cultural Centre. The place was packed. That album, 40 Days, went on to win a Juno and the Jennys went on to much greater exposure, particularly as regulars on Garrison Keillor's A Prarie Home Companion US radio show. It's interesting to note that when they end up on the show,they end up being in the top 5 best-selling artists on At one point, the Dixie Chicks were ranked #1, the Jenny's #2 and Johnny Cash #3.

Their last Winnipeg concert proper, as far as I can recall, was a gig at the Prairie Theatre Centre in front of a couple of hundred fans last year. This time, they sold around 850 tickets, quite an increase. They did play the Winnipeg Folk Festival this past summer, but that is technically an out of town gig in Bird Hill Provincial Park.

They began the show with one of the most immediately appealing tracks from the new album, Devil's Paintbrush Road, written by Annabelle Chvostek. It's upbeat and has a driving, old-time sound. I recognized everything they played, save for one unrecorded track. Throughout the set, they would talk about the inspiration behind the songs. Some songs are sentimental in nature while others have a darker inspiration. They played one song about an Aboriginal man who, as the custom was, was driven to the edge of town in winter and left to "sober up." He froze to death.

All three members of the Wailin' Jennys are accomplished songwriters, each with their own unique strengths. Ruth Moody's Prairie Town, a ballad about her hometown of Winnipeg, won the crowd over. Nicky Mehta's Begin knocked my socks off the first time I heard it on album, and live it was equally stunning with it's poignant, bittersweet style and that oh, so beautiful chorus that only comes in at the end. This is the type of song that she is known for - hypnotically alluring, dark but hopefull. Annabelle's Apocalypse Lullaby was also a demonstration of her songwriting prowess. This oddly titled song is haunting, surreal and incredibly sublime. I give her top marks for including the word "tetrahedron" in the song. It's one of my favorite songs right now.

The Jennys are known for their luscious three-part harmonies and in this show, like all their shows that I have seen, they had the audience spellbound. They can pull if off with or without accompanying instruments. They played some cover tunes that are staples of their live shows, including Leadbelly's Bring Me Lil' Water Sylvie and Calling All Angels by Jane Siberry, which are meant to showcase their blended vocals. Rounding out the sound on several tracks were violinist Jeremy Penner and bassist Gilles Fournier, two veteran players in the local folk and jazz music scene.

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The Jennys have reached a point where they actually cannot play all their best material in one show, even though they only have two proper albums out. Missing from the set was a favorite of mine, Ten Mile Stilts, which was on their debut. Any of the songs of Nicky Mehta's brilliant debut, Weathervane, would have fit like a glove. Her best songs are distinctive, memorable and have a long lasting appeal.

I'm not smitten with every track on the new album. Some tracks are clearly stronger than others. Time will tell whether or not they will give up the formula of giving each member an equal number of slots on their recordings, or will they simply go with only the strongest tracks in the pool, regardless of who wrote them. Of course, they could also try something that they haven't tried before, writing together. You can clearly tell who wrote what songs on the album and in the show since they don't collaborate together. Ruth's songs as whispery sentimental and easy to digest, like lullabyes. And her angelic vocals are an unreal match for her songs. Nicky's are more elaborately crafted with bittersweet feelings of caring and concern, happy but not without a price. Anabelle's are more distinguished by her sound which takes advantage of her fiddle playing and generally sound more upbeat. I'm a little loathe to try to categorize and summarize their individual songwriting talents, however, since each one is a more diverse writer than I let on.

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Given how they seem to be constantly on tour, they made a point of handing out the thank-yous very liberally to their hometown audience. We really don't know when they are going to play here again, given the growing demands on their schedule.

Opening act Patrick Keenan was a complete unknown to me. He's a local performer and he was reminscent of both Joe Cocker with his unrestrained vocals and also the stylings of Rufus Wainwright. I liked the way that his songs actually had stories behind them,which he shared with the audience. Playing with just an electric piano, Keenan put on an excellent show and I will try to track down his CD.

I was at the very first Wailin' Jennys show at Sleddog Music, an acoustic guitar shop/ cafe, in the Wolseley area of Winnipeg, back in January, 2002. They played to about 50 people in total over two nights, and they didn't even have a name before the first show. As the now famous story goes, after those shows, they began to receive more offers for work than they had as solo artists, so they decided to see how far they could take the band concept. To date, they've gone from playing North American festivals to touring regularly in the UK, Canada, the US and even Australia, where Ruth Moody was born. They earned their success so far with very limited radio airplay and lots of word of mouth, winning fans over one person at a time. Frankly, I would not be surprised to see them win a Grammy one of thes days - they are that competitive sounding.

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